Former Cal running back James Montgomery said his decision to leave the program was simply because "it wasn't the right fit."

Cal coach Jeff Tedford announced Tuesday that Montgomery had been released from his scholarship, allowing him to transfer to another school. Montgomery said he never felt completely comfortable in Berkeley and chose to come to Cal because of a "family decision."

"From the start, it was more of a family decision to come to Cal, to stay close to home," said Montgomery, who's from Rancho Cordova. "My parents basically told me to go work hard and try to make it work. I did that, and I still didn't feel like I was happy in Berkeley."

Montgomery, who would have been a redshirt sophomore next season, was to enter spring practice later this month as the No. 1 tailback on the team's depth chart. But he said the opportunity to get more playing time wouldn't have mattered if he wasn't happy.

"If I'm not happy where I am, I probably wouldn't have played to the best of my ability," said Montgomery, who rushed for 171 yards in limited duty in 2007.

Montgomery didn't say what schools he might consider transferring to, and said he plans on finishing the spring semester at Cal.

Montgomery also refuted the comments he allegedly made to RealDawg.com, a University of Washington fan site that quoted him as saying, "I didn't feel (Cal) was a (football) school that had a lot of tradition. They were ranked sixth in the country and yet couldn't sell out that week's game.

"There's a lot being twisted.


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I would never talk bad about Cal. Everybody knows I'm a team guy. Cal sells out games every year. I would never say that."

Montgomery orally committed to Washington coming out of Cordova High School but ultimately switched to Cal. He said even when he was being recruited, he had some reservations about joining the Bears.

"I just went in and worked hard," he said. "I didn't go in here not wanting to make it work. It was just more how I felt. I never felt it at Berkeley. It just never really did it for me."

Although Montgomery would have entered spring practice as the top running back, Tedford said all positions were open to competition, and the Bears have depth at tailback. Sophomore-to-be Jahvid Best also is a serious contender to earn the starting job, and now figures to be the front-runner, assuming he's healthy. Best will miss spring practice to give a hip injury more time to heal.

Montgomery said the competition at running back played no part in his decision.

"People keep asking me about the competition with Jahvid. It was never about that," Montgomery said. "The best guy plays wherever you go. We're such a tight group, we didn't even care who played. People think there is a rivalry, but we did everything together, on and off the field. There were never any malicious thoughts."

Contact Jonathan Okanes at jokanes@bayareanewsgroup.com.